Blogging Bayport Alameda

July 14, 2015

Driving faster in my car

Filed under: Alameda, Alameda Point, City Council, Development — Lauren Do @ 6:04 am

For some reason the Alameda Journal has been running Mark Greenside’s letters so commonly one would think that he was a paid columnist for the publication.  The most recent one is — as usual — just chock full of enough “facts” to make it sound as though he’s on to something.  But, as we all know, you can throw a set of “facts” out there but if you don’t provide the whole story or the whole context then you haven’t clued your readers in and have only provided enough “information” to support your thesis.

The latest from Mark Greenside can be boiled down to this nutshell: everyone drives! we need build capacity for more driving if we’re going to build more housing.

He then goes on to pepper his op ed with selective facts, including ones from uber conservative Wendell Cox  which should be enough to dismiss the entire piece alone.

He then quotes from a Vox piece another quote from Commuting in America, which means that he didn’t bother to read any of the actual research briefs from the larger Commuting in America study.  So while it may seem as though he is quoting two different sources, but it’s actually only one source:

“The percentage of Americans who commute by driving alone has risen since 2000.” So says, Alan Pisarski, co-author of the latest Commuting in America report. And Joseph Stromberg, author of “The utter dominance of the car in American commuting,” writes this: ” … more than three-quarters of American workers now drive to work alone, while another 10 percent still ride in carpools. The number of people biking or taking public transportation … only account for about 5.5 percent of commuters.”

While he makes it appear as though “author” Joseph Stromberg’s “The utter dominance of the car in American commuting” is some research study, it’s the Vox piece I linked to above.  The quote from Alan Pisarski was cribbed directly from the Stromberg article.  It’s interesting that Mark Greenside decided to ignore the very next article in the Vox series, Young people are driving less than their parents. But why?

And also missed this article in the Stromberg series: The “fundamental rule” of traffic: building new roads just makes people drive more.  And this one: Biking or walking to work will make you happier and healthier. And this: Long commutes make you fat, tired, and miserable. And this one, which is particularly relevant to Alameda: Fewer than 4% of Americans walk or bike to work. Here’s how to change that:

For decades, planners have designed American cities, towns, and suburbs with the primary aim of making driving fast, cheap, and safe. The result of that policy is that more than 85 percent of us drive to work every day — while less than 4 percent bike or walk.

To change this equation, cities and towns will have to transform their streets to make nonmotorized travel safer and easier.

The solutions the piece goes on to detail are the exact things the Alameda planners and advocates have been stressing for all future development projects (and actually current infrastructure): (1) street grid for better biking and pedestrian connections, (2) density and mixed use zoning, (3) eliminate parking minimums, (4) road diets and road narrowing, (5) protected bike lanes, (5) connect bike lanes for usable routes.

Actually, Mark Greenside appeared to ignore every single other article in the series that discussed the consequences of single occupant car commuting and what could be done to encourage other forms of commuting.

Oh, and this older piece: Why free parking is bad for everyone.

Going back to the Communting in America research brief, the future of commuting one wraps up by stressing that because no one really knows how the trends will fall it’s better to not invest in large scale projects but strategies that allow for flexibility, it does not say that because folks still largely favor commuting by car that we should continue to invest in making driving easier:

While uncertainty about the future is not unique to trans- portation, its significance could be more important in the future, as the magnitudes of change and variation in behav- iors across places appear to be growing while the degrees of freedom to respond appear to be economically constrained. Furthermore, uncertainty about the future introduces risks when the lead time for transportation project implementa- tion has become very long and many investments depend upon a half century or more of heavy utilization to amortize often massive investments. Collectively, these conditions favor strategies and investments that offer quicker responses to evident needs, incremental deployment of investments subject to feedback on market response, and flexibility to accommodate evolving technologies and market conditions.

But back to the Greenside piece, he then goes on to list out what people need cars for, which no one would disagree with:

People with children; older people; disabled people; people shopping or transporting people and things; people who need to be someplace in a hurry, on time, in an emergency; in the evening; when it rains or in other inclement weather; on dates; on the way to and from school and work and important appointments and meetings; people going out of town or to any of the zillion places BART and the buses don’t go; people who want a view of the bay from the hills; people who like to drive, who like their Teslas and Minis and muscle cars — look at all those people at the annual Park Street car show; people who want to be alone with themselves or a lover or friends ….

But the majority of what he lists are activities that happen not during commuting hours and the whole premise of his piece is based on researchers saying the people still largely favor commuting by car.  Essentially what Greenside has produced is a piece that makes people who are of the “OMG!TRAFFIC” mindset a validation of what they feel in their gut.  The problem is Greenside is bending the facts to suit his thesis.   Much like all Mark Greenside pieces, there is no solution offered, just a misrepresentation of what is actually being done on the planning level and a fist shaking mentality that everything is going to go to hell.


  1. So basically our planners are making it harder to stay in our cars. But until the price of gas rises again, the changes will be only incremental. Perhaps when Iran shuts down the Gulf with their new influx of oil revenue courtesy of the proposed treaty, and Israel bombs their nuclear facilities, gas prices will rise and achieve what bike lanes could not….If (hopefully) that doesn’t happen, then think about this- We are building more houses with two car garages. El Niño will screw bikers.

    Comment by Breathless — July 14, 2015 @ 7:41 am

  2. Read the Vox pieces. It’s about making alternative methods of getting from A to B feasible and attractive as opposed to the “cars only” mindset that has dominated for the last few decades.

    Comment by Lauren Do — July 14, 2015 @ 8:09 am

  3. Out of curiosity, how do you get to work?

    Comment by dave — July 14, 2015 @ 8:28 am

  4. Breathless – It appears the rise in gas prices is upon us!! We consumers are getting screwed at every level it seems.

    Comment by Bill2 — July 14, 2015 @ 8:30 am

  5. 1: “El Niño will screw bikers.”

    Not really, Breathless. Ever heard of rain gear for cycling or fenders on bikes? Many of us who bicycle have heard of them, and some of us even use them. (I spent 9 years in Eugene, OR, where I rode my bike for transportation and recreation, riding in pouring rain to both university classes and through 100-mile century rides. It’s easier than it might look to the uneducated or uninformed. much of that time I did not drive a car at all.)

    There is no reason–other than the dangerous drivers of autos who refuse to slow down and adapt to the wetter conditions–for cyclists to give up riding in the rain as long as they equip themselves with adequate additional gear and adapt their riding style to be even more defensive around unsafe cars than usual.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — July 14, 2015 @ 9:13 am

  6. I’m having a real time thinking of our local Alameda “newspaper” as anything other than a high school level propaganda machine….sadly. Not only my letters to the Editor edited to lose the point I wanted to make, but thank-you letters to first responders for saving a life edited to say it the way the Editor wished. These are not “grammatical” corrections. The Editor’s comback? “It’s my paper, I have the right to do it. If you want your words printed, you can pay me.” Fact. So what about journalism? Providing that unbiased reporting to inform the community?

    Comment by Gabrielle Dolphin — July 14, 2015 @ 9:33 am

  7. If, as is shown in the piece graphs, Americans want to commute as lone persons in an automobile, then the automobile traveling infrastructure should use all the means necessary to accommodate that want. If Spangler wants to ride his bike without a passenger on the rear, he has every right to do that. However, society has no obligation to build infrastructure to accommodate a tiny group of wayward souls who seem to have some sort messianic need to worship their two wheeled conveyance.

    Comment by jack — July 14, 2015 @ 9:40 am

  8. The continuing set of human-caused global warming brought on by the burning of fossil fuels at an alarming rate will catch up to us. If we want to try and salvage life as we know it on this planet–the only one we have so far–we will have to give up driving infernal combustion vehicles as much as we do now. They produce 45-50 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions that are destabilizing both global climates and societies.

    As to Mark Greenside’s assertions, there is one car–a 2007 Prius–in our household of two working adults. And getting out of your car for your commute has its advantages.

    Linda commutes on the Capitol Corridor train 5 days a week to Santa Clara, which eliminates lots of driving stress for her and offers twice-daily opportunities for observing wildlife refuge activities–not to mention the option of sipping a beer or margarita on the way home after a particularly tough day.

    There are many people and households in Alameda who are far ahead of us–people who do not own a car at all, who ride their bikes and take transit all the time instead of some of the time or most if the time. Alameda’s streets are full of far more cyclists than they were just a few years ago and the trend is continuing, based on both anecdotal observation and reliable transportation studies. Transit use is up, too, if Mark Greenside would bother to check AC Transit’s publicly available figures.

    Mark Greenside–like his partner in myopia and the autocentrist religion, Eugenie Thomsen, P.E.–are attempting to justify a world view and behaviors that can no longer be justified and are, in fact, disappearing. It may seem desirable to put time into reverse and return to the “idyllic” Mayberry of Alameda’s “good old days” (perhaps the 1950s or 1960s?), but that is impossible. It’s time to look toward the future, not back at a mythical past. And that includes how we get around from place to place, including our commutes.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — July 14, 2015 @ 9:41 am

  9. 7: Jack, since when do Americans–or people anywhere on this planet–get to do everything we “want”? Just because we “wanted” to burn trash in our back yards or manufacturing plant “wanted” to save money by spewing crap into the air doesn’t mean we have an unlimited right to do so. Besides,when we add more and more freeway lanes to provide “the automobile traveling infrastructure…necessary to accommodate that want,” all we get is more cars clogging up the roads and slower commute times.

    Single-occupancy vehicles (SOVs) are the most expensive, most polluting, and most congestion-causing means of travel. In short, driving a SOV–even our 2007 Prius–is stupid, short-sighted, bad for the planet, and suicidal. Can you really agree that continuing our addiction to guzzling gas in order to be “independent” at any cost is wise, Jack? I thought you were smarter than that…

    Comment by Jon Spangler — July 14, 2015 @ 9:53 am

  10. A respectable fact-filled article FROM Wendell Cox [not just a disparaging thread ABOUT Wendell Cox] 5/30/2015:

    Plus, it is 5 years newer than the opinion piece you cite, LDo.

    You might also like A Desire Named Streetcar, by Randall O’Toole.

    Comment by vigi — July 14, 2015 @ 9:56 am

  11. “It’s time to look toward the future, not back at a mythical past. And that includes how we get around from place to place, including our commutes” – Jon. Change is difficult. Always. But it has ALWAYS changed. I hear say if you don’t let go, prepare to be dragged.

    Comment by Gabrielle Dolphin — July 14, 2015 @ 9:57 am

  12. 8. Jack, that is pure libertarian bullshit. “Build it and they will come”. or more to the point, “don’t build it and they will never come”. Robert Moses was an idiot, but ironically he never drove a car, though I suppose he rode in them.

    Comment by MI — July 14, 2015 @ 9:59 am

  13. Per passenger, diesel powered trains create far more greenhouse gasses than automobiles. Even electric powered trains pollute far more per passenger than cars because the electricity comes from coal fired generators.

    Comment by jack — July 14, 2015 @ 10:07 am

  14. Why is Vox your reliable source? Even Wikipedia’s article about Vox is “written like an advertisement”

    BTW, Lauren, isn’t your husband notorious for worshipping his BMW?

    Comment by vigi — July 14, 2015 @ 10:19 am

  15. And since ridership of the Capital Corridor trains is steadily declining, the pollution per rider is steadily increasing. Meanwhile the pollution per automobile is steadily declining.

    Comment by jack — July 14, 2015 @ 10:25 am

  16. 12
    In my country, the government works for the people. Obviously, in your country the opposite is true.

    Comment by jack — July 14, 2015 @ 10:27 am

  17. The BMW was sold shortly after that photo was taken. It paid for landscaping.

    Comment by Lauren Do — July 14, 2015 @ 10:30 am

  18. Landscaping? In Bayport? Where every yard looks the same??

    Comment by vigi — July 14, 2015 @ 10:33 am

  19. So now he drives a landscape?

    Comment by jack — July 14, 2015 @ 10:33 am

  20. The Landscape 500GX. A limited edition that Pontiac started making after it retired the GTO. Surely, you’ve heard of it, Jack?

    Comment by vigi — July 14, 2015 @ 10:40 am

  21. I thought Pontiac quit making that model after they came out with the Solstice.

    Comment by jack — July 14, 2015 @ 11:08 am

  22. That would be drought-resistant, water-smart, California native landscaping with drip irrigation?

    Comment by Breathless — July 14, 2015 @ 11:50 am

  23. 8
    “The continuing set of human-caused global warming brought on by the burning of fossil fuels at an alarming al ad nauseum. Give it up Jon. Just like the great ‘second hand smoke gives you cancer fear’, the ‘lead paint makes you crazy’ fear and the ‘high cholesterol fucks you up one way or another’ fear, the great ‘man caused global warming’ fear that is destabilizing both global climates and societies, as you say, in 20 years will be looked back on as a clever but quixotic scheme designed and preached to further political aims by those who thought, at the time, that all humans were as stupid as the slowly dwindling Jon Spanglers of the world but which turned out not to be the case.

    Comment by jack — July 14, 2015 @ 11:54 am

  24. Not “pure libertarian BS” , but a Columbia econ professor writing in an apartment owners’ mag (4/1/2015)

    “Millenials are going to shun material goods, never own a car, and live in small spaces in utopian urban cores riding their bicycles or taking public transportation to their green, open-space offices. Forever!
    This, or something like it, is the conventional wisdom in the market and wishful thinking in the apartment industry. Although some surveys results seem to agree with this popular opinion, research shows that people’s needs and preferences change over time and that people are terrible at thinking about and planning for the future, especially when they’re young.”
    “…don’t worry—Gen Y actually bought more new cars than Gen X in the first half of 2014.”

    Comment by vigi — July 14, 2015 @ 12:07 pm

  25. 6. Sorry you had that experience with the Journal. I found the headline to Greenside’s article extremely misleading. I’m guessing it was self-titled, but the paper should have edited that before they edited your letters.

    It said that Alameda’s traffic plan was dangerous, and was on the front page banner as well. There is no evidence of any danger, threat, harm or injury in the article.

    18-23. Hilarious Faux and Friends banter by three anonymous dudes, or one dude and two people of unknown gender.

    Comment by Larry Witte — July 14, 2015 @ 12:22 pm

  26. OMG Jack – you’re in for a world of hurt :0). Vigi (I know you) why are you so mean?

    Comment by Gabrielle Dolphin — July 14, 2015 @ 12:22 pm

  27. Millennials Aren’t Buying More Cars, There Are Just More Millennials

    Let’s look at the rate of car buying on a per person basis for each of these two groups. By normalizing the data to account for the different number of people in each group, we get a much more accurate picture of the behavioral differences of individuals in each group–this is dead simple standard fare in statistical analysis. The 78 million GenYers bought about 3.7 million cars, or about 47.5 cars per 1,000 persons in the generation. Meanwhile, 45 million GenXers bought 3.3 million cars, or about 73.7 cars per 1,000. Rather than being just as likely or more likely than GenX to buy cars, the typical member GenY is actually 36 percent less likely to buy a car than the previous generation.

    Comment by Lauren Do — July 14, 2015 @ 12:46 pm

  28. aaaaand he’s down with a a one two punch

    Comment by Gabrielle Dolphin — July 14, 2015 @ 12:58 pm

  29. That survey is for new cars, not all cars. It stands to reason that Millenials, coming of age in a harsh job market, are buying proportionally fewer new cars than older people are. What really matters is car ownership rate, new or used, which I’ll take a guess is much closer to uniform across age groups than the new car survey indicates.

    Comment by dave — July 14, 2015 @ 1:05 pm

  30. This seems like a reason to encourage business growth IN Alameda. We moved here after my husband got a job on the island (we live within walking distance of his work). I’m self-employed and work out of a home office, and we do very well with just one car (which we only need to gas up every 3 weeks or so). We’ve saved tens of thousands of dollars on car repairs, insurance, etc. over the years by being a single-car family. With office space getting so pricey in SF and even Oakland, it would be great if Alameda could attract more companies, and then hopefully the employees would fall in love with Alameda as we did and want to move here. That in turn would help our local small businesses, restaurants and shops.

    Comment by trow125 — July 14, 2015 @ 1:25 pm

  31. 30: and send house/rent prices through the roof…

    Comment by no_more_rent — July 14, 2015 @ 1:52 pm

  32. 6: Gabrielle, that’s nuthin. I have previously: a.)found one letter I sent to the Sun published under someone else’s name and b.) found something I wrote here in BBA, under my real name, lifted out and printed in the Sun–without my sending it to the Sun! [another reason to use a nom de plume]

    Whatcha gonna do? Such screw-ups are just part of Alameda’s small town charm. Comes with the territory.

    Comment by vigi — July 14, 2015 @ 2:45 pm

  33. 32 at least they had my name attached! I heard “Alameda is the little town the world forgot” with all its charm! :0) It was great meeting you last week.

    Comment by Gabrielle Dolphin — July 14, 2015 @ 3:34 pm

  34. I don’t have to see Jurassic World: I can come here to observe the dinosaurs, pining for a world that has passed them by, grumbling about bicycles as they slowly go extinct.

    Comment by Jack Mingo — July 14, 2015 @ 4:38 pm

  35. I doubt that bicycles will go extinct anytime soon, mainly because there are a lot of battery powered two wheeled contraptions that your dinosaurs can move about on.

    Comment by jack — July 14, 2015 @ 5:26 pm

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